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Sunday, July 31, 2011

'Days Like This' by Alison Stewart

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

She has to escape.
But who else is out there?
And can anyone survive days like this?

I want to go back to the days when life made sense. The days before our parents became strange; before the warming ate away at all the living things in the world; before The Committee and their Blacktroopers. Before the Wall.

Lily is a prisoner in her own home. Forced to stay inside by The Committee and guarded by their increasingly distant parents, Lily and her brother Daniel are beginning to ask why. Then, when Daniel disappears just before his seventeenth birthday, Lily knows she is next.

Lily, her brother Daniel and their little sister Alice have not left the house in three years. They, like all other children, have been locked away from the outside world for their own safety, so say the Central Governing Committee. The Committee have had the people’s best interests at heart ever since The Wall was built 12 years ago. When water became scarce and only the privileged could afford to drink, The Wall was built to cordon off the wealthy areas around Sydney Harbor, keeping out the riff-raff with the help of patrolling Blacktroopers. But since their captivity, Lily and her siblings have noticed a change in their parents. Their mother and father no longer touch them when they’re sick, they insist on feeding them strange serums and there is whispered talk of ‘serum enhanced’, ‘hormonally lucrative’ and an upcoming ‘harvesting’. When Daniel disappears in the middle of the night, Lily is certain she’s next, so she escapes. She steps out of her house for the first time in three years, and what she discovers on the outside is worse than she and Daniel ever imagined. With the help of an underground network of child survivors, Lily is determined to find her siblings and save them all.

The Wall was supposed to keep them safe, but all it has done is keep them in.

Days Like This’ is a new YA dystopian novel from Alison Stewart.

‘Days Like This’ was always going to be a show-stopping release. It was shortlisted for the 2010 Amazon/Penguin Breakthrough Novel Award and picked as one of three finalists in the young adult section. But more than that, this novel is a hotly anticipated addition to an ever-popular genre . . . Australian readers can rejoice – we have arrived! Finally, we have a dystopian novel to call our own! Not just that, but this dystopian is based in and around Sydney Harbor in a post-pharma state where aging adults have become the enemy and children are, literally, walled in.


‘Days Like This’ was impressive for a number of reasons, but the two big selling points for me was Stewart’s clever hark back to history, and her empowering of the young characters.

The novel’s references and can be likened to a number of historical events. The Wall that has been erected around Sydney Harbour is reminiscent of the Berlin wall, erected in 1961 to segregate East and West Berlin. The Central Governing Committee’s Blacktrooper soldiers, who patrol the Sydney streets, are reminders of Hitler’s SS or Russia’s KGB, for their distinctive look and brutish behaviour. And when Lily ventures beyond her house and bands together with a group of other Wall-outsiders and child survivors, their underground network is akin to guerrilla war efforts – like the Vietnamese Viet Cong.


Alison Stewart never outright cites these major historic events – but they’re impossible to miss and chilling in their reinvention on the page. Stewart has done a wonderful job of blending histories past mistakes to create a frighteningly controlled dystopic world.

At night Lily often woke in a sweat from a recurring dream in which all her memories were rubbed out and she was alone in a closed-up world. She had to work hard then to remember what outside even felt like.

Dystopia is a genre which inherently understands that young characters should be their own saviours and must empower themselves. Dystopia doesn’t often rely on adult characters to save the young people as the combination of societal explorations and thrilling adventures means that the young protagonists are at the helm of their destiny – urged to fight for themselves against the establishment. This is never truer than in Stewart’s ‘Days Like This’ – mostly because in this alternate world, adults are not saviours, they are the enemy. Stewart has created a chilling and villainous institution in the Central Governing Committee, and their greatest threat lies in their parent-soldiers who help to control and manipulate the children. It’s utterly spine-chilling and blood-curdling to read Lily’s parents, Pym and Megan, react to her teen rebellions and curb her mini mutiny.

Lily wanted to go back to the days when she and Daniel could run and play and climb trees, before her parents became strange, before the warming ate away at all the living things in their shrivelled-up world. Before the Wall.

I think many young Aussie readers will enjoy ‘Days Like This’ purely for the Australian setting. Dystopian books are nice, but clearly Aussie Dystopian books are better. And everything about ‘Days Like This’ is inherently linked to our culture and community – right down to the fact that Sydney was walled up when water became so precious that only the wealthy had access. Australia is currently in the double-digits of drought years, so even including this little tid-bit of background is an instant cultural understanding for readers.


‘Days Like This’ may seem all doom and gloom – but there are lighter moments. Fans of Dystopia like a little romance to break up the bleak, so they’ll be happy to know that Lily has a small love triangle between two boys from the other side of the wall; Kiernan and Luca. I don’t want to give anything away, but one is a bad boy and the other sweet, and the triangle will keep you on the edge of your seat.

I really, truly loved ‘Days Like This’ for a number of reasons. Alison Stewart has done an impressive job of making heroes out of her young protagonists; the kinds of characters you can cheer for and live their bravery vicariously. The novel is also a brilliant mesh of past histories, so that the Dystopia-setting feels like a culmination of this century’s worst political and societal mistakes – making the bleak setting all the more terrifying for its pseudo-reality. But, above all else, Stewart’s ‘Days Like This’ invokes chest-swelling, fist-pumping pride purely for being a true-blue Aussie YA Dystopian novel! Let’s just hope this it is the first of many.

5/5

3 comments:

  1. I don't know if this would be a book I would enjoy, but I must say - fabulous, fabulous review.

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  2. I laugh at how you say that the representation of the Wall can be related back to another historical event, because I comepletely missed it. XD

    I always love reading your reviews as they're so detailed. Kudos.

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  3. Looking forward to reading this, thanks for the terrific review!

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